The Battle to Save the Verde: How Arizona’s Water Law Could Destroy One of Its Last Free-Flowing Rivers

This Note explores a battle for water in the Southwest that may ultimately destroy one of Arizona’s most precious rivers. This struggle pits the doctrine of reasonable use against the doctrine of prior appropriation and exposes the need to reconcile the uniquely Arizonan concept of “subflow,” which purports to synthesize the laws of ground and surface water, with scientific reality. The plight of the Verde River exemplifies what has become a common tale in the United States—multiple parties with valid rights to the same water under different laws. Its resolution will likely require some difficult decisions about resource allocation, rural and urban growth, and the courts’ willingness to side with science in the face of impossibly high stakes and a river in peril.